How Barcodes Can Make Attendance Records More Accurate For the Bottom Line

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Do you remember the days when you could hand a cardstock ticket to an attendant at the ballpark gates? The rip just before he handed you a stub that reminded you where you could find your seat? Ball parks and movie theaters sent home countless mementos over the years, many of which we secreted away in a box to be found at a much later date.

You can’t really get the same feelings of nostalgia when you print your tickets at home or call it up on your smartphone. Now those hard copy tickets are more collector’s items than entry permits. Some teams, like the Chicago White Sox, will only sell them for that purpose (and at an additional cost to the ticket you printed at home).

Other teams won’t accept anything other than their tickets or the app version, no home printouts allowed. The Chicago Cubs put such a policy in place for the 2017 season.

Physical or digital, the barcode’s presence can speed up the entry process. The usher no longer takes, inspects, tears, and returns your ticket. Depending on the venue, he might use a barcode scanner – or, just as possible, a smartphone – over the code or you may do so yourself and breeze right through. This can become an issue, though, if your team accepts at-home prints and you need ink!

Digital and coded tickets can also be used can also be used to help clean up one of the sport’s most debated points: What does “attendance” really mean?


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Yes, this really is a thing: Before 1992, National League teams would use their turnstile counts to report the number of people who showed for the game. The method makes sense: One rotation equals one person equals on ticket purchased and used. You could argue about small children carried, but that would a case of splitting hairs.

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Since ’92, the “and used” part of the definition disappeared from official counts. The modern form of “attendance” now considers tickets sold only for record (and income) purposes. Teams may or may not report no-shows – tickets sold but never used – at their discretion.

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With real-time scans, these numbers could help franchises legitimately find ways to put fans in the seats. Each game’s codes would form the at-home database, with special notes made with regards to certain types of tickets: Season holders, umpire, visiting team members, group discounts, charity tickets, and other discount types. These codes would show upon scan at the gates, just as a scanned package of gum at the register. You could see a considerably more accurate count before the ump could shout, “Play ball!”

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It would be no great stretch to figure out the no-show percentage before the seventh inning. The choice to include your special tickets (freebies, discounts, and charities) would depend on your goal. Comp items brought in no money from ticket sales but could represent a sale missed. Groups often receive discounted rates that could be tallied in terms of tickets purchased for the same price or for the cost of an equivalent number at regular cost. For your bottom line, though, you’ll most likely get more clues than cash. For fans in the stands, you can see honest numbers. Think what you could do with those pieces of information!

Let’s say you want to better understand the financials of attendance. So you get the money for tickets: How much did you miss out on through lost merchandising and concessions sales thanks to no-shows? Look at the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers: The team felt a $27 million bite in part due to reduced attendance and lost sales. Official attendance fell by almost 18 percent from the 2010 season, and remember: Ticket sales only.

What could actual numbers, not just units sold, tell?

  • How many people paid to see the game and showed up;
  • How many comp or reduced tickets got cashed in;
  • How many no-shows paid for seats but never came.

You could also estimate lost merchandise and concession sales through estimates based on averages purchases per person with both used and sold totals. These figures could become even more narrowed if your team uses power tickets like the Philadelphia Phillies. These tickets act like a pre-paid debit card at authorized vendors in the stadiums, which means another scan for accurate totals spent on food and souvenirs. These numbers can be deducted from the cash and credit totals and offer further insight into use of such a program.

With honest real-time data, you can get a better feel for your club’s current environment. With true figures that represent the stands, you can ask the right questions to help satisfy your fans needs and get them in the cheer on the home team.

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Marc Davidson

Marc Davidson

Marc Davidson is a Product Marketing Manager at Informatics specializing in Inventory Warehouse Management and Supply Chain product lines. He has 6+ years in the industry as a product marketing manager, sales executive and product trainer.